Archive for the ‘Stories from Others’ Category

AmherstMAHPI received this today:

“Dear Clayton,

My name is [redacted] and I am a rising freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in computer science. I came across your blog after doing research for a final AP macroeconomics project on college grad unemployment. After being done with high school and information to be filled out as requested by college, I finally had the time and thought to write to you.

Your blog posts are well-written even if they rant – it is very hard to give logical arguments in the midst of anger and misery. Your collection of elite education “warning stories” are rich and convincing. Most importantly, think back to your past words:

“In the end, my goal is to help people make better decisions and to avoid making what could well be a catastrophic choice purely out of ignorance and naïveté. This is something my academic advisors never did for me, and I paid the price. It sickens me to see this happening to other people, and I want to put an end to it. My cause is as noble as any can be.”

I believe that you did what you intended to do with your blog, for me.


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In a few weeks, I’ll be setting foot on campus at Princeton as a freshman. Luckily, with financial aid and scholarships, my education turns out to be more than free, so I’m not overly worried about the prospect of undergraduate debt. However, I would still like, when I graduate, to be marketable to some extent so I don’t have to incur mountains of graduate debt. What advice do you have for someone in my situation? What would you have done differently?

My response:

Thanks for writing, and congrats on the scholarships. You’ve dodged a major financial bullet and one of the most compelling reasons not to attend a private school.

Some of the advice I would offer depends on what you study and what you choose to pursue as a career. It depends also on what you’re looking for in a college experience, and what you want your life to look like afterward. But I can at least make some general suggestions, based on what I like to think is 20/20 hindsight.

1.       Remember that, for all its fame, Princeton is still just a school – nothing more, nothing less. Whatever your experience ends up being, remember that it’s only four years, and regardless of what happens, you will have options in the future. If you’re bright enough to get into Princeton, then you’re bright enough to shape your destiny beyond it. So if for whatever reason you find you’re not enjoying the experience, don’t let it get to you. Your life is not over if you don’t get straight A’s, and it does not reflect badly on you if you find the experience less than stellar, or don’t fit in with your peers and professors, or don’t enjoy your coursework. I took college far too seriously, and wound up totally burned out and miserable by the end. The intense classes, the competitive students, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into getting my diploma – they just weren’t worth Ultimately, I ended up hating the classroom and resenting formal education in general, which is really not a healthy perspective to have.


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After receiving a submission from someone saying he had never met an unemployed Ivy Leaguer, I felt compelled to find more stories of graduates of elite universities who can’t find work. Turns out, it’s not difficult… the more I look, the more I find. Below are about 35 more articles chronicling cases of unemployment, underemployment, poverty, insurmountable debt, and general shock-and-awe stories coming from graduates of top-tier universities.

A new Stanford grad on food stamps

Yale grad: “Turns Out My Ivy League Education Is Worth Squat”

Columbia grad: “$60,000 Ivy League Degree Was Just a Pyramid Scheme”

55-year-old Dartmouth graduate is unemployed and homeless

Harvard Grad Seeks Babysitting Jobs

Princeton grad works at a video store

Dartmouth grad – “Ivy Leaguer Shocked By Likely Future As Burger Flipper”

Stanford grad, unemployed and living with parents, reflects on his first year after graduation

Yale, Penn, George Washington University sue graduates over loan debts that they can’t pay back

Stanford Law school grad turned call girl under house arrest after cheating the government

Emory Law Student Lament: ‘We don’t need donuts, we need jobs.’

Being an Unemployed Ivy League Grad

Even a Yale Pedigree Could Leave One Unemployed

Discussion –how many elite school grads are in those unemployed statistics?

The adventures of an unemployed Columbia grad

Unemployed Duke grad who got a spot on the TV show “The Apprentice” couldn’t even keep that

A self portrait created in 2003 may help this struggling, 2012 Duke graduate to find her way out of poverty

Cornell Grads Find Fewer Jobs, Earn Less Than In Previous Years

“Underemployment hits double digits for schools listed below ninth-ranked University of California, Berkeley.”

From Ivied Halls to Traveling Salesman (includes a UPenn grad)

Fewer University of Chicago and Northwestern law graduates finding jobs at law firms

“It’s interesting when an alumna suggests that a professor at her law school is interfering with her ability to find employment. And it’s downright sensational when the unemployed lawyer is a Stanford Law School graduate.”

9% unemployment for recent Georgetown grads

MIT grad still unemployed after a year

MIT computer science graduate couldn’t find a job

“Six months after graduating from Princeton University, 22-year-old Kati Henderson was still looking for work.”

Georgetown graduate unemployment rises

“Unhappy anniversary: My first year of joblessness” – Recent Johns Hopkins graduate wonders what Congress is doing to help

Discussion – Unemployed or underemployed recent Top-20 college grads

Report: Many Emory Law Students Underemployed After Graduation

“8 months out, no job… I guess my Ivy League Master’s Degree was a waste of money”

Ivy League degree, no job

Life after the Ivy League: Surviving unemployment without losing all self-confidence

Google Is Not Impressed by Your Fancy Ivy League Credentials

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One gentleman wrote in with a litany of complaints and personal criticisms. Below is a copy of this e-mail, with his comments in quotes and my responses in italics.

“You need to change the name of your blog.  You keep referencing the Ivy League when you didn’t even attend an Ivy League university.  You’re lucky the Ivy League hasn’t sued you for libel yet.”

You’re right, I didn’t attend an Ivy, but this blog isn’t just about me, and no other phrase is so quickly and readily associated with top-ranked schools. Many people refer loosely (albeit erroneously) to roughly the top 15-20 universities as the “Ivy League,” and for lack of a better term, I’m doing the same. I suppose I could call it the “The Ivy-and-Ivy-Equivalent Lie,” but somehow that just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so well. 

As for the accusation of libel: Last time I checked, our great nation still has something called the First Amendment. For me personally, college sucked, and I have every right to say what I please about my own experiences. As far as more general statements are concerned, it’s not libel unless it’s patently and demonstrably untrue, and there are plenty of articles cited on this blog to back up the assertions I’ve made.

“You made the wrong choice of school to attend.  You should’ve went to Yale or MIT.  Duke is a great school, but in reality, its national reputation doesn’t come close to Yale or MIT’s.  Regardless of the rankings, Duke is better known for its sports teams than for academics.”

Maybe. In my experience, the perception of any given school is heavily dependent on where you are and what job you’re applying for. On the East Coast, Duke seems to be very well-regarded, and to be known for having students were not only bright but also more well-rounded than some of their Ivy League counterparts. Duke has slipped a bit in the ratings the last decade – when I started there it was tied for 4th with Stanford and MIT – whereas now it’s hovering around #8 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Regardless, it’s consistently a Top -10 university, so I disagree that there’s a very substantial difference between Duke and say, Columbia or Princeton. And personally, I disagree that I would be better off had I attended Yale or MIT. The key problems for me would have applied at any of these universities – namely, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, the tuition was exorbitant, and the coursework was painfully difficult and utterly irrelevant to any profession. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t even apply for any of those schools, let alone consider attending one of them.


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My name is [redacted] and I stumbled upon your blog while searching for posts about the Ivy League.

I was rejected from all of the Ivies or Ivy-equivalents I applied to (or rather, mostly wait-listed and then rejected). I was accepted to Swarthmore […] as well as “safeties” which awarded me merit scholarships. I was also rejected by schools considerably less selective than the Ivies…

My high school experience was similar to yours. I graduated with highest honors in the top 10% of my class; took 11 AP and 6 honor courses; earned school wide, local, and national awards; and have extensive leadership experience in unusual areas (founder/president of two clubs, congressional intern, created and taught an actual class at my school, varsity tennis).


I’m not writing to you simply to vent–I’m looking for advice. Since my dismal decisions were released, I’ve been feeling great anxiety over the fact that I worked so hard for sub-par results. Of course Swarthmore is amazing, but I still regret not studying harder for the SAT points, or bringing that A- up, or my AP Stats score of 3. I also constantly rethink my essays, most of which I thought were great, coming up with possibly more successful topics. Like you, I traded a healthy social life for strong academic success, but without reaping the full, albeit possibly not-worth-it, rewards.


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I recently posted a link to this blog on Facebook, and an acquaintance responded that he didn’t understand the purpose of the site. What exactly was I trying to accomplish? After a bit of reflection, I realized that “The Ivy Lie” is rather a hodgepodge of article links and personal commentary, so I’d like to take a moment to point out why I set this site up in the first place.

I’ll repost portions my friend’s comments (with personal details removed), as well as my responses. Hopefully this will give a better idea of what this blog is all about.

He stated: “I’m not sure I understand the blog fully. What does the institution have to do with difficulties in finding jobs? I think some of the stories were of people that are expecting six figures because they went to an “elite” school […] Getting a piece of paper from a fancy school doesn’t make you any smarter or capable than anybody else, and certainly does not entitle you to high salary jobs.”

And I replied: “Precisely! But I’d venture to say that many if not most students who choose to attend these sorts of schools expect precisely that. Maybe not that they are entitled to a six-figure job after graduation, but that the education they will receive at such an “elite” school is genuinely good enough that they will have the necessary knowledge and skills to land a highly paid (and interesting) job, and certainly not have to deal with unemployment or poverty. I definitely wouldn’t have gone to Duke if I had thought otherwise, but my experience was precisely the opposite: Instead of finding my dream job, I wound up a broke, unemployed emotional basket case, living in my mom’s basement and wondering what the hell I had done wrong… when in reality, the whole thing was an illusion in the first place.”

He also said: “I received my BS [in an engineering discipline] from [a state university] and I have no problems [finding work].”

To which I replied: “That’s exactly the point of this blog – to demonstrate that state school educations are perfectly adequate, and that it’s all about what you study, not where you study it. But there are tens of thousands of students every year who swallow the Ivy League pill, believing that it will open doors that would be totally absent otherwise, and instead wind up under a mountain of debt and are left with a degree which sounds prestigious but that provides no practical skill set. Instead of focusing on building useful practical skills for which there is real demand in the job market, they get caught up in the experience of being at an elite private school. They fail to realize that it does matter what they study, instead assuming that the name recognition alone will carry them (it’s an attitude along the lines of, “I went to Harvard – what more do you want?”). Suddenly, four years later, they get a dose of reality when they’re forced to look for work and can’t find it. For me at least, it took a long time to realize that my degree was basically useless, that I’d been lied to, and that I had to go back to school and start over if I was going to succeed in life. Basically, I’d like to get the message out to all these potential suckers (by which I mean Ivy League applicants) before they get themselves into a world of hurt like I did.”

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Still dreaming of a spot at Princeton or MIT? Still believe that a diploma from Stanford or Yale will make all your dreams come true? Here are a few more links that might change your mind:

Ivy League Graduates on Food Stamps


Graduating into unemployment

“Nikki Muller, known for her viral YouTube video, “Ivy League Hustle,” still can’t make more than $14 an hour… [she] graduated from both Harvard and Princeton.”


Is an Ivy League Diploma Worth It?


Ivy League degree, no job


30s: Ivy League Unemployed

“Good-bye, Rat race. Good-bye, Bank Account.”


Unemployment Stories, Vol. Three: ‘Absolute Hell’

“I am a mid-30s female with an Ivy League graduate degree. I just received my third layoff in a little over four years.”


Unemployed Banker and Ivy Leaguer Reaches All Time Lows


Scamployment! The e-mail inbox of an Ivy League unemployed


Is the Ivy League a waste of money?

“Princeton professor and economist Alan Krueger set out to prove an Ivy League education paid off. He wound up proving exactly the opposite.”


From Ivy League to Unemployed: How College Grads Should Approach the Job Hunt


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